Millions of academic writers worldwide struggle with typesetting of their documents every day. Hundreds of methods, tricks, and practices evolve in different research groups. Two of the most popular typesetting systems in academia are LaTeX (implemented in various software packages) and Microsoft Word. The compatibility between the two systems leaves much to be desired. For a given research group, standardization of typesetting practices is quite important and the requirements for an effective typesetting system are far from trivial. The same text and graphical information must be adapted for research reports, conference papers, theses, proposals, presentations, and internal memos. Often, manuscripts are written by several authors and are distributed electronically.
Ensuring the compatibility of typesetting systems among collaborators is a great way to increase productivity and quality of writing. Even the rigor of writing can be negatively affected by an inconvenient typesetting system: the author observed cases when a figure would not be inserted into the document because “it would require manual renumbering of existing figures and take too much time.”
A commonly encountered opinion in academia is that LaTeX is a solution to such problems. However, it is also usually accepted that LaTeX is not spread out in a corporate world, does not provide WYSIWYG, and has a steep learning curve, preventing its use for collaborative writing. Converting back and forth between two systems takes a lot of effort.
Over the last few years, the presenter has developed a series of lectures for his graduate students on the effective use of MS Word. Students who took these lectures were able to achieve almost all functionality of LaTeX, while keeping the benefits of Microsoft Word. Some of these students now graduated and initiated adoption of this system is their new locations of employment. Elements of this system will be discussed during the presentation.
The presenter is interested in taking this effort further, providing an effective set of rules for academic writing to a broad audience, perhaps through books, websites, or video presentations. If successful, this effort will make MS Word more popular among academics, will enhance collaboration between academia and outside world, and help many scientists and engineers focus on their research rather than typesetting. This presentation is an initial attempt to find collaborators for such a project within Microsoft.